Community Services Corner: Community Services At Public Library System

Community Services Department Director
Los Alamos County

Mesa Public Library and the White Rock Branch Library are cherished amenities in our community. The library was founded in 1943, just one year after Los Alamos was selected as the site for the Manhattan Project. It was started as a subscription library by 70 couples, each of whom donated $5 for the purchase of books.

The library was created in a small room in the Big House, one of the original buildings of the Los Alamos Ranch School. In 1945, it became a free library when the Army Post Recreational Council handed over financial responsibility to Army Post Special Services. In 1946, the library became the Mesa Library, guided by a Library Committee of five, and in 1951 it became the Mesa Public Library, an independent corporation under contract with the Atomic Energy Commission. The White Rock Branch Library opened in 1985 and moved to its current location in 2015.

Today, Los Alamos Public Library System is led by Library Manager Gwen Kalavaza. Gwen has worked at the library since 2001 in a variety of positions and now leads the team. She is assisted by Senior Librarians Liza Rivera, Eva Jacobson, Veronica Encinas and Daniel Gaghan. The entire library team works hard to make your visit an outstanding experience.

More than just books

Are you interested in travel and need to research your next destination? Maybe you have been looking for a new painting to hang in the house for a party? Do you like keeping up with the latest technology and trends? Los Alamos County Public Library System is a good place to start. The two locations that serve locals and New Mexico residents – Mesa Public Library in Los Alamos (2400 Central Ave.) and the White Rock Branch Library (10 Sherwood Blvd.) both offer comfortable spaces to sit and work, free Wi-Fi or usage of a library computer, and meeting rooms that can be reserved. Mesa Public Library also has the Step Up art gallery with monthly rotating exhibits. While this Public Library System is historically noted for a large collection of printed media, here are some additional services the community may be less aware of.

Digital collections

The Public Library System digital collections include resources such as eBooks, audiobooks, eMusic and much more available for all ages. While this Public Library System was an early adopter of downloadable content, starting as early as 2006, usage of the library’s digital collections has significantly grown due, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those interested can choose from several platforms to access digital titles, with Hoopla and Overdrive as the most popular. The library continues to invest in downloadable and streaming content to meet the growing demand. Many don’t realize that digital books have limits on the number of check outs before the library is required to repurchase the title. Some titles only allow one person at a time to check out that title. This is why you may occasionally experience a delay before you can read your favorite book online. The library staff works hard to keep up with the demand and interests of the community when maintaining the digital collections.

Research and databases

The library has a repository of online services for those wishing to research topics of interest or to learn a new skill. Read reviews in Consumer Reports before purchasing your next car, check out cooking tips and recipes from the New York Times before hosting your next get together with friends, or learn a new language with Mango Languages. Your library card is the passport to accessing this treasure trove of information.

Non-traditional collections

The library also has many non-traditional items to check out. Collections include framed art, induction cooking tops, energy meters, telescopes and games – and thermal cameras are coming soon – you heard it here first! Both locations also have seed libraries that offer a variety of seeds for checkout. You can pick up seeds at the library and then return them later in the year. What would you like to grow?

Youth Services

Youth Services Librarian Melissa Mackey, and her team, work diligently to provide opportunities for the younger audiences in our community. This includes offering a wide variety of books to fit a diverse population of youth and a broad base of activities to engage these young minds in the joys of reading and allowing creativity to blossom. Regular programming includes homework help services, story times, fun and games, Music and Movement and Babytime for our littlest community members, as well as resources for parents and guardians.

Special Programs

The library also provides a variety of adult and intergenerational programs, services, and events that provides an opportunity for local and national authors, performers, and artists to speak about their work. New to the community? Check out the Newcomer Adventure evenings. Enjoy yoga and books? Try combining them at the Quarterly Yoga Book Club! Forums such as these celebrate diversity within the community and offer opportunities to explore new ideas and challenge assumptions. Stay plugged in to the event calendar as the library continues to work with local and regional organizations to develop exciting new events and services.

To get a free library card, visit either library and fill out a short application. A photo identification showing current name and address is required. If the photo identification does not have a current address, bring another proof of address, such as a utility bill or lease agreement. Get your library card on the spot and start receiving the benefits of this wonderful community resource right away! Library cards are issued to residents of Los Alamos County, employees working in Los Alamos County, temporary residents of Los Alamos County, New Mexico residents with a valid New Mexico ID such as a driver’s license, and UNM-LA students.

Reach out to Gwen at to share comments or to get more information on programs and events.

LOS ALAMOS website support locally by OviNuppi Systems